Sunday, May 13, 2012

Professional Objectivity in Motorsports

Full disclosure - I currently work for a NASCAR team, and previously worked for a motorsport and OEM supplier. All opinions stated herein are my own and not necessarily shared by my employers or sponsors - past or present.

Admittedly my exposure to the working world of Formula 1 is quite limited. From what I gather however there is an immense pool of engineers / people who try to join the sport at the entry level, which makes it very competitive and with some base salaries I'd describe as adequate at best. Hell, I think I applied to (or emailed) just about every team on the grid when I graduated college [university for you accustomed to European nomenclature. Euroclature?] and was pretty happy just to get a rejection letter. Little did I know at that time that I didn't know shit about shit and was of little value to a racing team competing at a high level.

I'll pose this as a question to those living and working closer to the Prime Meridian than I - how many of those working in F1 are rabid fans of the sport? More to the point - if they are, is that a healthy thing? 

In my opinion you have to have a pretty good buffer of professional objectivity in this business. I'd say most of the people I've worked with have been in a few different organizations over their careers. Sponsors come and go, as do opportunities, and people move around. Drivers move from team to team. To me it would be almost embarrassing to have an all-out favorite driver or car or team. What happens if you get a job on a team in direct competition with them? Or if they're in your organization and leave? 

On the other hand I think you need to have some amount of emotional investment in your team to compete at a high level. When push comes to shove it helps to have something that will drive you to work the nights and weekends without any extra pay to try to win the next race. Striking a balance is key. 

To some degree I'd go so far as to liken being a motorsport engineer to being an NFL athlete. 

Let's give it a few minutes for the laughs to subside. Certainly nothing to do with being able to throw a deep fade to Victor Cruz for a touchdown - but a common theme in any NFL interview regarding contracts and shuffling around in teams is that "it's a business." That it most certainly is. So to all those looking to get your feet wet in racing, perhaps it's best to market yourself as a professional asset rather than a fan.

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